This is the scene: Friday afternoon, a few hours prior to Shabbos, at a checkout counter at a supermarket in the Five Towns. A woman at a checkout line is placing her items on the counter, looking at her wristwatch, knowing she must get a move on it.
“How are you paying?” the counter person inquired routinely. The customer handed over her credit card and was informed that the card was declined. She then told the clerk to place the charge on her account, which is connected to her home phone number.
The clerk punched the phone number into her computer keypad and saw that the account had reached its maximum allowed spending limit of about $3,000.
What happened next was told to me by a reputable source in the community heard about it from one of his employees who was at the store. A person behind this woman saw her uneasiness and could almost hear the clock ticking as Shabbos approached.
The customer behind the woman being served offered the cashier his credit card to pay for the groceries. The clerk took the payment and while the recipient was a bit flustered, she expressed her extreme gratitude and asked the person where they can be contacted to repay him. The person said she should just go home and they would figure it out after Shabbos.
According to the bystander, after the young woman left, the mystery person asked the cashier what was owed, explaining that he wanted to zero out the account. So he authorized his credit card to be charged close to $3,000.
Of course, a story like this produces additional questions. How will the woman who left the store with her bags of food know that her account was paid off and that she can shop without that looming economic pressure?
I was told that she will likely return to the store at some point to make a payment on the account. When she offers payment, she will be told by the clerk or cashier that there is nothing due presently on the account.
At the Meaningful Minute event on Sunday night, one of the featured speakers, Charlie Harary, told this story to over 1,200 people gathered in Yeshiva of Brooklyn to hear him and Rav Gav Friedman present words of chizuk to the predominantly young audience. The supermarket story of last Friday is chilling, bringing to light the great good that one can do with a simple gesture of generosity. But it does not end there.
Earlier this week, the day after Harary shared that incident, someone walked into one of Brooklyn’s busiest supermarkets and spoke with the store manager about paying off some delinquent or overdue accounts to make life a bit easier for a few folks.
These episodes are especially poignant as we head into the Purim and Pesach season, when the need in this area is particularly profound. What an amazing gesture that is. Can you imagine if this type of thing catches on and more people do the same thing?
It is a living expression of “Mi k’amcha Yisrael” — Who is like Your people, Israel?